Note: this is an edited down version taken from here. Check the full article out.
Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous.... with a track by track breakdown after each video by Lord Finesse. (Read the full article here.)
Devil's Son (L's first 12")
Finesse: At the time it was somebody by the name of David Kahne [working as L’s A&R at Columbia]. He was like the person who was responsible for getting L signed, and he loved all that devil’s son shit. [Says in nasally white-guy voice] “Oh wow, this is great!” It’s like, “Are you serious?” Because we had to make [L] change a line in “Devil’s Son” because it was [like], “You’re too out-of-order.” What was the line… “I’m killin’ chumps for the cheapest price / I’m rollin’ with Satan,” [and instead of then saying “not Jesus Christ”] it was “F Jesus Christ.” But we made him change it to “Not Jesus Christ.” [We were] like, “Yo, what the fuck are you doing?!”
Horror-core was out [at the time], [and so] with the Gravediggaz, and Nas saying what he said on [Main Source’s] “Live At The Barbeque,” [L was] like, “Oh, y’all think that’s ill? Oh okay, alright.” That was his attitude… [Like at the end of “Devil’s Son” when he says] “I’d like to give a shout-out to all the thieves, murderers, robbers, rapists, and a special, special shout-out to everybody that got AIDS. Peace.” How the fuck do you say that at the end of a fuckin’ song, man?
Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous
01. Put It On ft Kid Capri (prod: Buckwild)
Finesse: [Columbia Records] wanted something with a hook that would be kinda catchy, and something they could get radio play with. Like, everything [L] did was dark, and it was gangsta, and it was…what was the [popular style at the time]? Horror-core. So they needed something bright, something friendly. And “Put It On” just matched everything perfect.
I don’t think that was the last song [recorded for the album]. I think the last two songs actually were “Street Struck” and “M.V.P.”
“Put it on,” the slang…was like… “do your thing.” “Put it on Big L, put it on…” [meaning] you gotta do your thing, you gotta represent.
Kid Capri is like really somewhat an honorary member of D.I.T.C....because Capri has been there for damn-near all the members since the beginning. Whether it was [my] Funky Technician LP – that’s where I first met Kid Capri at, was The Castle [nightclub in the Bronx]. Me, Show and all of us used to hang in The Castle. [So] we used to see him on a weekly basis, and he would break [our] records [for us]. If he liked it he played it… And that’s how Funky Technician – him and Brucie B broke [that], just like [he broke Showbiz & A.G.’s] “Soul Clap,” and [Kid Capri was responsible for] how Show got the hook for “Party Groove”: “Do the bend, and stretch.” We was Kid Capri junkies with [his mixtapes]. So he’s always been like an honorary member of D.I.T.C. And [so] L wanted him to do the hook because of his pizzaz, because of his style, ‘cause of his character and because of his voice. [He was like], “Damn, if I get Kid Capri on a hook, this gon’ be the shit.”
02. M.V.P. (album version prod: Lord Finesse; video version prod: Salah)
Finesse: [Notorious B.I.G.] got the idea [for his remix single version of “One More Chance”] from [the original version of “M.V.P.”] ‘Cause L was opening up for Biggie, [before Ready To Die was released and long], before that remix [for “One More Chance”] came out, and L was [already performing] “M.V.P.” They just took that [DeBarge “Stay With Me”] loop and stripped it down… But I know they heard that from [L], ‘cause that remix was no way done before “M.V.P.” was done. [And I know] because I was there during the making of the Ready To Die album ‘cause I did “Suicidal Thoughts.” So, if I woulda heard they used it before L used it I woulda never used it.
That song came about because L wanted a commercial, R&B loop that everybody could recognize. And me remembering that [DeBarge] record, and also remembering how Kid Capri used it way back when he did – I forgot which record he did, but he had that [song], and I’m like, “Damn, well maybe we could reinvent that right there.” And L heard the loop and was like, “Yeah, that’s it!” But, [with] Diggin’, we had to have the right drums, the right everything [to go with a sample], and we dressed it up in a way where we tried to keep it Hip Hop. [But] then [Diddy], he would take just everything off of something and just use it straight naked.
I don’t know who did that [“Summer Smooth Mix”]. Like, after we came with the album, Sony would hire different people to remix – you know, put they spin on the record. [The L.G. remix of “Put It On”], I liked that one actually. It was mellow, it was dark…I liked that one. [Columbia Records was] gonna do what they wanna do at the end of the day, because they the label. Regardless what we liked; fuck what we like. [Laughs] If they [felt] they liked something they went with it. All L had to do was approve it – he did have to do that, you ain’t gonna just have somebody remix his shit and he don’t like it. And he did like [the “Summer Smooth Mix”]. And he liked it to the point where he wanted that to be his [official] remix…[and then] his video [for the single].
(Note: you can check the official video here.)
03. No Endz, No Skinz (prod: Showbiz)
Finesse: [I didn’t try to coax him into writing more female-friendly lyrics] ‘cause L had a sick sense of humor. That’s why the rhymes were the way they were, because his sense of humor was just retarded. And what he thought was funny you might not think is funny. [Laughs] And the more you appalled at it, the more he thinks it’s even more funny. ‘Cause the shit he was [spittin’], some of the rhymes he was saying, we looking at him like, “Man, you so offensive,” and that would make him write more offensive shit. It wouldn’t deter him. [He was thinking] like, I got the response I wanted to get from you, so now I’ma write something even worse than that shit.
04. 8 Iz Enuff ft Terra, Herb McGruff, Buddah Bless, Big Twan, Killa Cam, Trooper J, and Mike Boogie (prod: Buckwild)
Finesse: With that [song] L just thought he had to do a track with the rappers from his hood. And he definitely wanted to put on [those particular emcees]… We looking like, “How you gonna put eight niggas on one track?” [And he was like], “Don’t worry, I got this.”
[His] N.F.L. [crew stood for] “Niggas For Life,” and Children Of The Corn was another crew [consisting of L, Mase, McGruff, Bloodshed and Cam’ron], but he was clearly cool with both of ‘em and he just thought these are the up and coming rappers I think is nice and I wanna start my own movement with the crew here…
The funny thing is I asked L [sometime in the late ‘90s], “Why didn’t you put Mase on that?” ‘Cause Mase, [then known as Murda Mase], was hanging around at the time. And L said, “Mase wasn’t rhyming nothing like how he rhymes now. That was a different Mase [back in ‘92].” As time went on, Mase style grew and developed. Because I always [used to] say [to L], “Yo, y’all crew, why didn’t [you] ever put him on?” And that was the story that he gave me. [But L] thought Cam was ready. He thought everybody on that track was ready. [D.I.T.C.] knew a little ‘bout Cam, but we were sold on Herb McGruff. We knew that was [L’s] partner-in-crime. We was definitely sold on McGruff.
05. All Black (prod: Lord Finesse)
Finesse: I love that [track]. [At] that time I was doing real tremendously dark, soundtrack, gutter, gangster-ish type music… And I always wanted them sinister-type, cut-through horns. I don’t even know where I got those horns from, but I know most of the stuff that I did at that time was real Jazz-related, dark Jazz-related, like Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, soundtrack dark [sounding]. And with the sinister piano glare [underlying those horns].
I wouldn’t say that’s the illest [track on the album but] some of the rhymes he’s saying is just the illest. He went off. “I’m known to extort guys / This ain’t Cali, this is Harlem nigga we do walk-by’s!” It was like, “Oooh.” But is it the best? Nah, I like “Danger Zone,” [all] the dark shit. We loved the dark shit… And I like “Street Struck,” [which] was maybe the last song we did, with the last amount of time we had in the studio. And he came with that story.
And me and [Buckwild] was kinda like biased towards the whole project, because as we went on and on with the project the songs got doper and doper to the [point] where we didn’t wanna stop. We thought after “M.V.P.” and “Street Struck” – ‘cause they was both done in the same session – we was thinking like, “Damn, you could still do some more.” But we had to turn [the album] in.
06. Danger Zone (prod: Buckwild)
Finesse: He was a dark comedian. Sinister, man. It’s like how Richard Pryor was saying to Eddie Murphy, “If people gonna laugh at the shit you say, say that shit!” [Laughs] It’s like with L, if you gon’ get that response that you want when you say that rhyme, nigga say that shit! And that was his motto… [Like], “If [I] get a response from what I’m saying I’m doing something right.”
When he was saying [“I never wear rubbers, bitch if I get AIDS fuck it!”] it wasn’t nothing to do with Eazy-E. That just happened to be a real unfortunate coincidence [that L’s album dropped the same month Eazy passed].
He was smarter than what he would lead you to believe on that album. But, it’s like, [for] Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, I’m portraying this character, and this character I’m portraying has to be believable. The stuff he has to do has to be so over-the-top. And that’s a lot of the characters he was portraying on that album. It was a mixture between what was going on in Harlem and fiction. Some of it was real, some of it was fiction. [So] when he wanted to go over-the-top with some shit he went over the top with it!
He wanted to let people know you come through this zone right here and if you not related to anybody and nobody knows you, you will get robbed. And people got robbed! That’s why they called it the “Danger Zone.” It used to be a little chicken spot, [and] if you go through there flossin’ or looking a certain way I think to this day you’ll still get robbed.
07. Street Struck (prod: Lord Finesse)
Finesse: That was Sony [that wanted him to make something more positive]. [They were like], “You so dark on this album, we need something positive we can push. This album is too dark: you got ‘All Black,’ you got ‘Danger Zone,’ you done came out with ‘Devil’s Son.’ We really don’t wanna push that as your image. You have to do something that’s gonna balance it.” And that’s [when] we started doing more conceptual, conscious songs like “Fed Up Wit The Bullshit,” “Street Struck,” and “M.V.P.” and “Put It On.” The album needed a balance…“I Don’t Understand It” [was another one]. The album needed a balance [‘cause Columbia was like], “We’re not gonna let you kick all this gangsta shit.” [But L], I think he wanted his album at one point to be called Murder Incorporated or something [like that]. And this was before Murder Inc. [the record label].
[The darker content on the album] was definitely a little part of his life, because when he was raised in Harlem he seen a lot of things and he witnessed a lot of things and he wanted to put it on wax. But at the same time, Sony made him come with something that can also leave a message to young kids that are listening to your music, and that’s what he came up with, “Street Struck.”
That line ["Stay off them corners, that might be ya best plan / Before you catch a bullet that was meant for the next man."]…it’s crazy [considering the circumstances of L’s murder]. It’s like foreseeing something that you don’t even know is gonna happen.
08. Da Graveyard ft Lord Finesse, Microphone Nut, Jay-Z, Party Arty, and Grand Daddy I.U. (prod: Buckwild)
Finesse: [Big L] wanted to go first [on these posse songs]. [And] man, you had to step your game up. And I think he was responsible for making Diggin’ step [our] game up, because if we doing a song together…pshew, you better be ready, dog.
I heard all L’s rhymes before [I recorded mine]. I was arrogant [though], I ain’t give a fuck about [going right after Big L]. I was like, “I’m just on it. You want me on it, I’m here.” It’s like, I can’t stop this dude from writing what he gonna write. He was phenomenal with the penmanship, man.
People don’t know [Jay-Z and Big L] actually battled each other in Harlem. And I wish somebody videotaped that, because that woulda been a classic to this day. I think battling each other they got admiration for one another, and that’s where – ‘Cause I can tell you L was a Jay-Z fan, just like Jay-Z was a L fan. [L] was [also] a DMX fan. He loved DMX… And I think [after] that battle [between Jay and Big L], [Big L] was like, yo, I wanna put Hov on [a song]. And we’re not talking about the Reasonable Doubt Hov, we’re talking about the Hov fresh off the “Can I Get Open” [single from] Original Flavor [in 1993]. That’s the Hov we’re talking about. And we thought he was slick with the pen, but it wasn’t until later that we could truly honestly appreciate the Hov we know as of now… Jay was running around battling people [back then], and somebody set them up to battle each other and…I really know [Jay-Z] didn’t know what he was getting into battling this dude. I don’t [remember the exact date of their battle], I just remember L telling me about it. He was sitting on the stoop getting his hair braided, and [according to L] they set up this battle and he went to battle this dude. [Big L] was also there when Jay-Z battled DMX. L was heavy into the battling thing.
I think it was different [times that we each recorded our verses]. Either it was the same day at actually different times…’cause I don’t know if Grand Daddy I.U. was there when I recorded my verse, I don’t remember that. I definitely ain’t see Jay, so it was definitely at different times.
The voice, the presence, the character, [Party] Arty, his vocal presence was monsterous. DMX had a voice [like that], but we always thought Arty’s voice came across just rougher.
09. Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous (prod: Lord Finesse)
Finesse: I mean, like I said, phenomenal penmanship. All this built-up anger and tension being released on these tracks is just timeless, to the [point] that if you ain’t know L existed, right, and you was to learn this whole album, and you go in the street right now and start kickin’ those rhymes people’ll be looking at you like you was the greatest dude ever. And that album was done like eons ago. “Breakin’ in cribs with a crowbar / I wasn’t poor, I was po’, I couldn’t afford the o-r.” Like…you know!
I just think it was a combination of what he was seeing in his neighborhood and forming it into a character. It’s so many rhymes that L would say, and I know for a fact that he’s a comedian, so if y’all sitting there and y’all joking and you say something slick he’s gonna put it in a rhyme. “I wouldn’t give a chick 10 cent to put cheese on a Whopper.” [Laughs] It’s crazy.
10. I Don't Understand It (prod: Showbiz)
Finesse: I think that song was a song kinda relating to where he wanted to get on in the game. ‘Cause, I discovered L back in ’90, ’91, [but] he ain’t get on until a couple of years later, and what he had to go through to get on - how many different A&R offices we went into and how many different meetings we took, and with the demos and everything – he went through it to get on, man. I had him in countless Rap battles. Anything he could do to get attention, [my] “Yes You May” remix [in 1992]. And [so] that was a subject based on what he went through to get on, especially looking at all these cornball niggas [that was] getting on: “I don’t understand it.”
The stuff we created in that era was timeless, man. And I’m not saying this because I’m who I am, it’s just because you can apply [the quotable above] to [the Rap game] now!
11. Fed Up With The Bullshit (prod: Lord Finesse)
Finesse: [The beat] was an interpretation of [The Isley Brothers’] “Between The Sheets.” I took the melodic pattern [of that song and] I had the bassline played over, and put hard drums to it and the classic Lord Finesse echo horns.
[Big L] wanted to be hardcore to the third power. And he wanted to be noticed as one of the top rappers. But at the time of course people was like, “Yo, you sound just like Finesse.” And I would just tell him keep doing what you doing, fuck that. Like, if I’m not saying nothing – They telling you you sound like me and I don’t give a fuck, [then] nigga do that shit, man! ‘Cause I’m looking at him like I wish I had somebody behind me how I was behind him when I was coming up in my career. And that was the whole [motivation for] just really being behind him and putting him on these different records.
One label made me pull [Big L] off certain shit, because they didn’t want his light on my airtime. I did a record for the Trespass soundtrack [in 1992] called “You Know What I’m About,” [and] the first version got L on it. It was for a Warner Brothers soundtrack and they made me go back in and change it, and that’s when I came with the version with the Scooby-Doo beat. They didn’t like the fact that I was presenting him on this track [from] a soundtrack and he wasn’t a Warner Brothers artist [like I was at the time]. Same thing for “Set It Off Troop” [from the Class Act soundtrack]. It was a couple of songs we did [together] where [the label] said, “No.” They didn’t like the fact that I was using their channel to expose him.
12. Let Em Have It L (prod: Craig Boogie)
Finesse: Craig Boogie was somebody that was around us, that was coming up in the game and doing beats. And…this actual track [he did] happened to stick out. We all thought it was a dope track, and we thought it’d make a nice combination on this project.
L just wanted a braggadocios song. He wanted something that he could get his rocks off on. I mean, with L, as much as it was braggadocios, we loved it because [he] was just phenomenal with it. He was extraordinarily talented, so we got a kick out of those braggadocios rhymes with all them crazy lines in [them].
Finesse: [Big L’s beats were all done by] people who was around us, and at the time it was me, Buck and Show. That was the main people that was around during the making of L’s album. And L was happy with the group of people that was around him. So he ain’t figure that I have to go and get this extraordinary production, like, “I got the team of niggas that helped me get on and I’m running with this team.” Diamond [D] I think was probably in Orange, New Jersey at that time, he wasn’t [really] around us.
It wasn’t the plan [to have Buckwild and myself produce the majority of the album], it’s just like L would go to Buck's house, [or] he would come around me [and] he’d hear something he’d like [and be like], “I need that. You gotta let me get that.” And it’s other songs we did that didn’t make the album. I mean, they leaked out later on. Like “School Dayz” was maybe one of the first songs he did. That was crazy! “School Dayz,” and “Timez Iz Hard On The Boulevard,” “Unexpected Flava” – it’s actually a beat that Large Professor did for me, but I never used it so I gave it to L.
Lyrically, we thought he was just phenomenal. I looked at him like – I was arrogant as a muthafucka during my era of doing what I did, but it was like this dude would just put the battery in my back half the time with the shit he said like, “Pshh, okay I gotta write even harder now.” It’s like, he just added to a blueprint that I started, and he really took off with it. He formatted the blueprint to where I was like, “Wow.” The way he put the words together, the way he expressed himself, I was truly impressed. And it was never a real competition between us, because he knew I had his back. I’m doing everything in my power to try to get [him] on, I never shunned him, never tried to put him under my wing, I never held him back, I pushed him forward as hard as I could to make sure he got that light. So, it was never like no competition where [I’m] not trying to let [L] shine, [or I’m] telling [him he] ain’t ready yet. It was like, “No, you’re ready” [Laughs]. If I’m performing he had five to ten minutes on my show easy. “What’chu wanna do? I’m at the Apollo, I’m opening up for muthafuckin’ Treach and [Queen] Latifah, [so] yo, you need to have a mean 16 for me.” That’s how it was with me and him.
No DITC Cameos?
I don’t know [why there were no A.G., O.C. or Fat Joe guest spots on Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous]. That’s a definite L question. Because, we wasn’t opposed to none of these people. He ain’t say “Well, I wanna do a song with O.C.” and we said “No, you can’t do no song with O.C.” “I wanna do a song with A.” “Nah, you don’t…” We wasn’t opposed to it, I just think it just never happened until later on in [their] careers. See, what people fail to recognize is when Diggin’ In The Crates was created it was created as solo individual artists creating a crew, it wasn’t formed as a crew breaking into solo [careers]. Everybody was used [to] and accustomed to doing their own thing… [And so] if people wasn’t there, nobody was waiting for somebody to come in the studio to do no vocals, we just gon’ rock out [with who we got].
It was rough [in terms of the commercial response to "Put It On" - the first single from the album at the time]. It was rough on the whole D.I.T.C. [commercially], but it was really rough I’d say on L. Because, you had “Put It On,” which was a great record, and Columbia did push it – to a certain extent, but I don’t think they really put the full blast on it. You know when a label put the machine, put the power behind something. I think they gave him a push, like a nudge, but they ain’t really give him that push you over the roof push. And I think it was hard on him because they had such a unpolished gem there.
And I think what took away from the luster of Big L’s album was when [Columbia] finished up the Nas album, Illmatic, and he had [production from] Pete [Rock] and Large Professor and [DJ] Premier and Q-Tip. They had some of the top producers in the game on his album… So they felt [like], “Okay, we gonna go with this now!” And [Columbia] kinda liked slept on [Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous]. This is what I personally feel anyway.
[D.I.T.C.] brought him in the game, [and so L was loyal to us for his production]. And at the time Diggin’ was Diggin’. We went though high and low for this dude: from me discovering him, from me trying to do beats for him at the time [in 1991] when we was first getting his demo together. And it wasn’t until L and Show did “Devil’s Son,” [which was released as L’s first 12” in 1993], that [L] got that attention from Columbia. But, if you go further back, L was with me everywhere… It was like, “Wherever I can get you to shine – you just hang on to me, just stick with me and I’ma get you as much exposure as I can get you.” It wasn’t no I had him under contract, [so] I’ma pimp this young artist [kind of thing], it was just like, “Stick with me [and] you gonna get on.”
L’s LP was before Nas’… Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous was [recorded between 1991 and 1993], before Nas’ [Illmatic]. And then Nas started getting a buzz [after “Halftime” and MC Serch’s “Back To The Grill” dropped in ‘92], [so] then [Columbia] started pushing Nas over L. And then [in the months after Big L’s album was released] The Fugees came [with “Fu-Gee-La”], and once The Fugees [started making noise] L got lost in the mix up in the Sony machine.
The Lost Tracks